From Mee Krob to Brassiere Eggs: My Food Highlights 2012


pun pun chiang mai
In 2011, I ended the year with a post on the things that I liked (and still do); In 2012, I’m doing the same thing. The randomness which you saw from last year’s post? It’s here too. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here they are: the most memorable food items of 2012, presented in the most random fashion.

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This post is lovingly dedicated to my best friend T and his girlfriend K.

T, what can I say? You’re a precious gem of a friend, and I love you truly. K, knowing you has been a privilege and joy. Thank you for your generosity, kind spirit, and genuine character. I’ve learned a lot from you about life and food. You both have made this year so wonderful. Thank you.

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(I split this post into 2 pages to make it faster for the pictures to load. Don’t miss the second page.)
 
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL: FLOWER SALAD, PUN-PUN, CHIANG MAI
Starting from the top, the picture above shows what I consider the most beautiful dish I’ve eaten this year. Tipped off by writer Michele Humes, I set out to Chiang Mai to see for myself this restaurant which Humes and several others have been raving about. Well, I was impressed.

Humes has already done a great job describing the restaurant and its food in her post (which I’ve linked to above), so I’m just going to focus on gushing over this beautiful salad of edible flowers. Even though the beauty of some of these blossoms is marred due to them being batter-fried, you can still see how pretty this whole ensemble is. (The dressing in the bowl is made of pumpkin, in case you’re wondering.)

As good as this salad is, I must say, it is far from being a most delicious thing I’ve ever had (but, then again, I’m not much of a salad person). What makes it stand out in my memory every time I think of 2012 is its beauty.

THE SPICIEST: SOUTHERN SOUR CURRY, DAOTAI, BANGKOK

southern thai food
I spent 2010 exploring northeastern Thai cuisine, 2011 learning about the cuisine and language of the north of Thailand, and most of 2012 immersing myself in everything related to southern Thai cuisine. So far, I’ve found the southern cuisine to be the most interesting, varied, and, to my palate at least, the freshest and the tastiest. It took a while for this girl from the central plains, whose heat tolerance is pretty low even for the Thai standard, to get used to the spiciness of the southern cuisine. But once she got there, there’s no going back.

Shown in the photo above: (L) southern sour curry of barracuda and (R) stems of giant elephant’s ears [Colocasia indica hassk., also known as khun (คูน) in the central dialect and o-dip (ออดิบ) in the southern dialect]. So good. But if you’re going to be eating at Daotai (ดาวใต้), or any place selling real southern Thai food, during the hot season in Bangkok, please do heed my advice.

THE MOST YEARNED FOR (#1): KHAO SOI WITH BEEF, KHAO SOI ISLAM, CHIANG MAI

khao soy khao soi
Here’s a dish that’s not particularly hard to make, but is made pretty badly on a regular basis by those who should know better. You can’t blame me for approaching this bowl of khao soi at Khao Soi Islam (ข้าวซอยอิสลาม) in the manner in which a thirsty desert sojourner approaches an oasis.

All the khao soi impostors with ultra-creamy, homogenous, tasteless broth and vermicelli thin noodles can line up in a single file and march in unison to a place where darkness reigns and wailing never ends. And if those that are decorated with green lettuce and topped with generous amount of ground peanuts insist on heading to the same destination, I won’t stop them.

THE MOST YEARNED FOR (#2): MEE KROB, TALING PLING, BANGKOK

mee krob
My best friend T stopped by Taling Pling (ตะลิงปลิง), one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok, one afternoon, then showed up at my place with this mee krob (RTGS: mi krop) — one of the better versions of this dish. Let’s just say, it was a good day. It’s as if he knew that I’d been so deprived of good mee krob which is almost impossible to find in the US.

Traditionally, mee krob demands a squeeze of som sa (ส้มซ่า Citrus media Linn. var. linetta), but regular lime stood in for that type of citrus fruit which is generally very hard to find even in Thailand (and wasn’t in season at that time). I’m not complaining, though. Having experienced enough mediocre mee krob at most Thai restaurants overseas for many years, I’m wowed by even an okay version of this dish in Bangkok. That’s not to say this one is ‘just okay,’ though; this one is good.

The recipe for mee krob, by the way, will be included in my upcoming book. You’ll be pleased to know that though it requires multiple steps, this dish is not difficult to replicate at home. In fact, it’s pretty fun to make.

THE MOST FUN: KLEEB LAMDUAN COOKIES, SMOKED WITH THAI SCENTED CANDLE

thai scented candle
Speaking of fun, you know what’s fun? Smoking cookies — kleeb lamduan (RTGS: klip lamduan) cookies. For some reason, 2012 is the year I’ve smoked more cookies than I’ve ever done in my life. I used to hate the scent of Thai scented dessert candle, but now I can’t get enough of it. Either I’m becoming more Thai or I’m getting old.

Wouldn’t you like to make these classic Thai flower-shaped cookies, so you can smoke them too?

THE MOST INSPIRING: RABBIT RISSOLES WITH OXFORD SAUCE, THE HARWOOD ARMS, LONDON

harwood arms london
One of the best meals I’ve had in 2012 was lunch at the Harwood Arms in London, the city which I’ve fallen in love with, the city which has overturned the stereotype about English food. Although I loved everything which I had that day, it’s the rabbit rissoles on fragrant licorice sticks that have stuck on my mind.

Inspired by these, I’ve devised a recipe for something that’s more Thai in flavor. I’ll share it with you as soon as the weather is warm enough to do some grilling outside.

THE TALLEST: KHAI CONDO, JARUNGIDANAN HOME, BANGKOK

khai condo
You’ve seen khai jiao, Thai-style omelet. But have you seen its gigantic, I-WAS-BORN-TO-BE-NOTICED! cousin, khai condo? Yes, the “condo” in the name is short for the English word, condominium, which, to most Thais, is synonymous with a high-rise residential building. Now you can see why this egg concoction is called that.

More on this in 2013. You’ll love it.

THE CHEAPEST GOOD FOOD: HOMEMADE “CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE” NAM PRIK PAO STIR-FRY

nam prik pao stir fry
Nam Prik Pao is one of those things that most Thai people even those that don’t cook — no, especially, those that don’t cook! — have in the fridge. It’s so versatile. This stir-fry you’re looking at is made with odds and ends in the fridge: a little bit of ground pork, some long beans that would have gone bad in a day or two had they not been used, and some bird’s eye chilies in the freezer. Cheap. Flavorful. Feeds 5 people easily. Make a pot of rice to go with this. Fry up some crispy fried eggs Thai-style to top it all off. A bowl of nam pla prik on the side. This is a feast.

Check out my friend M’s Nam Prik Pao fried rice with pineapple and shrimp. This favorite of mine (and many of my readers’) was devised out of odds and ends in the fridge too.

29 Responses to From Mee Krob to Brassiere Eggs: My Food Highlights 2012

  1. spicytofu December 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Where can I find sun dried burro banana chips and thai black sticky rice wine? They do look very mouth watering good! I have not seen these at my nearby asian grocery store, or maybe they are not stocked. I look forward to reading about the Portuguese tradition in Thailand. I had no idea there was Portuguese influence in Thailand to begin with, let alone a these so called ancient cakes.

    • Leela January 1, 2013 at 1:13 am #

      spicytofu, the only place I’ve seen sun-dried burro bananas is the snack shops in Thai Town, L.A. Never seen black sticky rice wine anywhere in the US. Sad, I know.

  2. spicytofu December 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    BTW, the best thing we’ve eaten this year is something sweet and simply: a persimmon galette.

  3. John Schuler December 30, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    INRE-Khoa Soi Islam

    I’m in Chiang Mai and ate the khoa soi chicken at this restaurant about 2 weeks ago. The curry broth was quite neutral in flavor, it seemed to me. I will have to go back and try the khoa soi beef. They do have a good supply of condiments at the table to add some heat to their dishes.

    If I may ask a question? I’m on a khoa soi kick now and have been eating it for breakfast about 5 days a week. I walk every morning and have found a bunch of hole in the wall establishments on my route serving good bowls of it for 35baht. Do you know anything about the calorie count on this dish?

    Love this website.

    • Leela January 1, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      John, thank you.

      Yes, khao soi at khao soi islam is on the milder side which is not to say it’s bland — just not as strong on dried spices as some others. But I love the type of flat noodles they use as well as the Shan-style sweeter, less acrid pickled mustard greens that is their signature touch. Having said that, khao soi broth is not supposed to be spicy like typical Thai curries — kind of like how massaman curry is different from red or green curry; it comes from a different cooking tradition whereas warm dried spices are more prominent than fresh, sharp, fiery fresh herbs.

      As for the calorie count, I can only guess since recipes and portion sizes vary so much accuracy isn’t remotely possible. The broth is pretty much made out of spices (no calories for the most part) and diluted coconut milk, so a cup of it is about 150 calories. A cup of egg noodles is about 220. Then we have fried egg noodles on top, so that’s about 100 extra, give and take. The calories of the side pickles are negligible, so are those of the condiment, except for the chili oil. So all of those things plus the meat (one skin-on chicken drumstick is a little more than 100 calories). You do the math.

  4. Mireille December 30, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    Happy 2013 to you Leela! I love this post and can’t wait to try some of the recipes when you post them in the coming year.
    The best thing I have eaten in 2012 is a classic French dish but then inspired with Vietnamese ingredients, so no Thai unfortunately… and it is Vietnamese duck braised in spiced orange juice, the recipe is from Rick Stein and it is addictive and so yummy!! Try it one day you will love it!!
    Greetings from South Africa xx

  5. simon @ SoyRiceFire.com December 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Every item on the list is so interesting! I’m drying to try the Thai black sticky rice wine. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find it in NYC…

  6. BoiseNoise December 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Did you put up a post earlier about how you made your salted duck eggs? (Not that I’d probably attempt that as a DIY project; I was just curious about the process!)

    • Leela January 2, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      BoiseNoise – Not yet. I was about to a few weeks back, then realized my experiment wasn’t complete. It’ll be up soon.

      • BoiseNoise January 2, 2013 at 9:31 am #

        Great . . . I’m looking forward to reading about it! :)

  7. Jenny December 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Happy new year Leela, I just love your blog and have been addicted to Thai food for years, as I live in country (rice growing) area Australia I grow my own limes, lemongrass, chillies, Ginger, basil and have a huge veggie garden. Nothing is more satisfying than gathering fresh produce and mortar n pestling a spicy Thai past.
    Thanks for your inspiration I look forward to your book. I check out as many Thai restaurants here and would love to have a go at stuffing zucchini flowers with prawn and crab do you have a good recipie?
    Ps love your mixed mushrooms and green peppercorns I recommend all your followers to try it though I add more water to thin it down a bit.
    Cheers

  8. spikygreengobbermontser January 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Good to see you back i kept checking in only to be greeted by the same picture of Obama’s som tam.You think he would of eaten it by now!

    • Leela January 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      For your inconvenience, subscribe via email (at the bottom) or via RSS (icon on the top right corner). That way you get notified whenever a new post is published. :)

  9. Davidd January 2, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    I love the egg omelet “condo” !

    (And, of course, the deep-fried, crunchy herbs all over the place…)

  10. Dan January 2, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Leela, what’s the translucent white thing on top of mee krob?

    • Leela January 2, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Those are thinly sliced pieces of pickled garlic, except this is solo garlic (aka pearl garlic) — one big clove instead of many in the each head.

  11. JL January 13, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    Ironically, the best Thai cuisine dish of the year for me may have been one that I didn’t actually eat myself. While visiting Koh Phi Phi last year, my girlfriend ordered a whole fried fresh fish (don’t know the variety, but do the geography to zero in), crusted with herbs, served over khao suay (steamed rice). Distinctly not part of my diet, but the unassuming presentation at a simple roadside resto was enough to make this vegetarian consider crossing over… What can I say — I’m a sucker for fresh, authentic Thai recipes regardless of variety!

    • runningtab January 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      It was just such a fish that changed my life. On Koh Samui, pre-airport days. I’d not touched seafood of any sort for decades, consequence of an ill-timed experience with an oyster at age 10. That fish turned me around. Had to walk through the surf to get to this one-table, beachside, no-walls place. (No place on earth can match the best Thai beaches.) Watched son bring the fish out of the water, watched mama fry it up, top it with fresh chili, etc. Sensational. Which meant, of course, that I ordered whole chili-fried fish countless times in countless restaurants – and never came close to that one. But I will someday …

  12. Paola (Italian chef) January 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Graet recipes & fantastic pics…compliments. thanks!

  13. Jay ทิดดำ Riley January 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    จานที่ใช้ดอกไม้สวยมากครับ

  14. Claire March 1, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Thank you so so so much for sharing with us. I am leaving sunday for a two weeks trip to Thailand (a first for us !!) and I am absolutely overthrilled. I preciously noted all your advices, thanks again.

  15. gaelee April 19, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    ร้านลุงมีเมนูหรือเปล่า

  16. Simone June 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Leela! Will you include any of these dishes in your cookbook that is coming out? I am such a big fan so hurry up and get it published ;)

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